Finally the call comes

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

SPRUCE GROVE -- Shayne Bennett got a call from the Calgary Roughnecks after his second year of junior to find out about his future plans.

His response was simple. Still a teenager, he felt he still had the opportunity to play lots of lacrosse ahead of him, he told them he wanted to travel and experience life a little bit.

GOING TO AUSTRALIA

"I told them I was going to Australia, but to keep me in mind and call me in the future," said Bennett yesterday after the Rush wrapped up their final training camp practice session at the Tri-Leisure Centre in Spruce Grove.

That call never came, and he barely got another sniff at the National Lacrosse League, so he played the last five seasons in the Western Lacrosse Association making a name for himself hoping to one day get that opportunity to play in the NLL.

He thought that call would never come after seeing so many of his friends and teammates making the jump and having success at the NLL level.

He only had one phone call and no invites to an NLL traning camp.

"I was playing really well, but I never got that opportunity, until now," said Bennett, 25. "This is my big break. I expect to be in the league for a long time, but I know I have to continue to get better, because there is always some young 21-year-old kid ready to jump in and take your job.

"If you don't continue to improve every year, you're going to get booted out of here in no time."

Training camps are always good for a surprise or two. Bennett could fall under that category. He could be the only rookie on the Rush defensive corps this season.

He isn't a surprise to Rush GM and head coach Bob Hamley.

"I knew about him a few years ago. Chris Seller (Rush defenceman) tipped me off about him and Greg Hinman (Rush defenceman) when I was in Arizona, and we only had room for one and we took Greg," said Hamley.

"I saw him (for the first time) at the Mann Cup in Brampton, I knew right away he was going to be a great fit. We (Rush coaching staff) looked at each other and we thought 'wow, we've got a gem here'. "

Bennett arguably could have played his first season in the NLL last year, but while playing in the WLA, he chose to pursue a career in firefighting.

After investing lots of time and hard work to reach that goal, he had to go through his probationary period with the fire department so it put his NLL dream on hold.

He's got clearance from his fire department in Richmond, B.C. and now he can resume his lacrosse career.

Yesterday, the Rush wrapped up training camp at 11 a.m. Bennett was to catch a flight at 3:30 p.m., and was to arrive in Vancouver an hour later, then he had to be at work by 5 p.m.

"It's going to take a lot of juggling, no doubt about it," said Bennett. "I am basically throwing away every weekend from now until April or May, but I couldn't be happier and more excited to do it."

One area the Rush needed to improve on was their toughness.

With the acquistion of former Roughnecks tough guy Ryan McNish and Bennett, Hamley has filled that void in a big hurry.

TOUGH AND GRITTY

Bennett wasn't afraid to play gritty and physical during his days in the WLA.

"In my first two or three years in the WLA, I fought all the time. Someone would ask me to fight, and I wouldn't think twice about it. But the last two years I rarely fought at all, because guys would know that I would fight," said Bennett.

"It's all about earning respect, and I am assuming the same thing will happen when I step into this league, I am going to have to earn my respect."


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